From the Archive: “from MYRMECOLOGY,” by Rachel Harkai

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“from MYRMECOLOGY,” by Rachel Harkai, appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of MQR.


Army Ants

Deep in the bivouac the minims moved the brood.
They tried to hold us, we wingless virgin drones.
But from the formicarium we went in the night,
abandoned that humdrum maze with our cunning.
Over the glass gap, we linked a living bridge—
the transient womb a body of bodies.
One by one we weave together easy as twine
and escape within our ever-respirating nest.

Siafu Ants

A cascade of black sand, we fall to the fields,
snatch pests from mowburnt leaves,
pluck lice from the cassava’s leafy hair.
In a single swoop, we cover the crops
and by morning they are empty and clean.
Our dark wave washes away over the plains.
Villagers utter their respectful farewell.

Honeypot Ants

From the ceilings of our tiny tunneled chambers, we hang.
Workers bring their parcels—drops of toothsome honeydew
fallen from foreign floral nectaries. Relentlessly, they feed
us until our bellies swell into strange spherical silos and we
cannot be moved. When the rains did not come, we saved
them with our stomached crops, disgorged the hallowed
nectar from our abdomens—we precious repletes. And after
they guzzled us dry, they devoured our brittle bodies, our
sweet corpulence—we mealy martyrs of this lean season.

Jack Jumper Ants

Marooned by desert winds, she shrank
below my rock—cuddled her slender body
to its crevices. From a distant mound of fire-
ground gravel I pounced, pierced her banded thorax
and met her tremor with my venom. Her legs curled
and she spread her papery wings. I summoned
my scavenging sisters with a sweet, funereal song.


Image: Sketch of ant from the 1667 edition of Robert Hooke’s “Micrographia: or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses.”

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